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PASSINGS: Miller Barber, Jiroemon Kimura

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Miller Barber

Champion golfer with unusual swing

Miller Barber, 82, a golfer with a unique swing who made the most combined starts on the PGA and Champions tours, died Tuesday. The PGA Tour announced his death but did not provide details.

He played in 1,297 tournaments on the PGA Tour and the 50-and-over circuit, winning 11 times in 694 PGA Tour starts and adding 24 victories in 603 events on the Champions Tour.

Barber was born in March 31, 1931, in Shreveport, La., and grew up in Texarkana, Texas. He graduated from the University of Arkansas in 1954, served in the U.S. Air Force and joined the tour in 1959. He won the 1964 Cajun Classic Open Invitational for his first tour title.

Known for his unusual swing that featured a flying right elbow, the two-time Ryder Cup player had his best chance to win a major championship in the 1969 U.S. Open at Champions Club outside Houston. But after taking a three-stroke lead into the final round, he closed with a 78 to finish three strokes behind winner Orville Moody.

Barber won five majors on the Champions Tour, including a record three U.S. Senior Open titles. He made his last competitive appearance last year in the Liberty Mutual Legends of Golf, teaming with Jim Ferree to tie for 11th in the Demaret Division for players 70 and older.

Barber learned to play golf as a youngster. "By the time I signed up for lessons when I was 13," he told Golf Digest, "the swing I have today was already ingrained. Over the years, I tried to change, but I really couldn't play any other way. Jackie Burke says my swing looks like an octopus falling out of a tree, and others say I look like a man opening an umbrella in the wind. But after I loop the club to the inside on the downswing, I look like any other good player. The downswing is all that matters."

Jiroemon Kimura

Oldest man in history at 116

Japan's Jiroemon Kimura, 116, recognized by Guinness World Records as the oldest man in recorded history, died Wednesday of natural causes in a hospital in his hometown of Kyotango, western Japan, the local government announced.

Born on April 19, 1897, when Queen Victoria still reigned over the British Empire, Kimura dodged childhood killers such as tuberculosis and pneumonia that kept life expectancy in Japan to 44 years around the time of his birth. He became the oldest man in recorded history on Dec. 28, 2012, at the age of 115 years and 253 days. The oldest woman in recorded history, France's Jeanne Calment, died in 1997 at 122.

Kimura was also the world's oldest living person. That title now goes to Misao Okawa of Japan, who was born March 5, 1898, according to a list of the world's oldest people compiled by the Los Angeles-based Gerontology Research Group. The previous record-holder for male longevity, Christian Mortensen of San Rafael, died in 1998 at 115 years, 252 days.

The third of six children, Kimura was born as Kinjiro Miyake in Kamiukawa, a fishing and farming village sandwiched between the mountains and the Sea of Japan. His parents were farmers who grew rice and vegetables.

After finishing school at 14, Kimura worked at local post offices for 45 years until his retirement in 1962 at the age of 65. He also worked at a government communication unit in Korea in the 1920s, when the peninsula was under Japanese rule, and returned to marry his neighbor Yae Kimura.

As his wife's family didn't have a male heir, he changed his name to Jiroemon Kimura, making him the ninth person in the family to bear the name. After retiring, he enjoyed reading newspapers and watching sumo wrestling on television.

His wife, Yae, died in 1978 at 74. Four of Kimura's five siblings lived to be more than 90 years old, and his youngest brother, Tetsuo, died at 100, his family said.

-- Los Angeles Times staff and wire reports

news.obits@latimes.com

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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